Patient-centricity Helped Independent Practices Survive and Thrive in the Pandemic
Among the significant findings of the Kareo 2021 State of the Independent Practice Report and survey, were a series of statistics that show that independent practices made it through the pandemic, in part, by doing what they do best – being advocates for their patients. They learned to be flexible and innovative in the techniques they used to maintain those close patient relationships.
In Kareo’s second bi-annual State of the Independent Practice survey, 1,300 independent healthcare practices shared their thoughts on practice initiatives, challenges, and the future. For the data analysis, Kareo partnered with a research team led by Dee Warmath, PhD, an assistant professor of the consumer analytics program at the University of Georgia. The full State of the Independent Practice Report is available for download here.
As patients have assumed greater responsibility for their healthcare costs due to many enrolled in high deductible health plans, they have also taken a more active role in finding providers who meet their expectations. During the pandemic, independent practitioners appear to have recognized that their smaller, more flexible practices can personalize care for patients in such a way as to best meet their needs among healthcare delivery systems.
Delivering care has always been a high priority for independent practices, as was shown in the previous Kareo State of the Independent Practice Report in 2019, but is an even higher priority in 2021. In 2019, 50% of participants cited delivering quality care as their primary focus, which increased to 71% in 2021. This suggests that practitioners understand the valuable role they play in their patients’ lives and health, likely prompted by the pandemic.
Equally striking is the fact that providers are enlisting technology to get the job done. The unprecedented adoption of telehealth by independent practices during the pandemic, going from 22% in 2019 to 80% today, shows the importance this technology plays in patient engagement, allowing practices to reduce costs and increase efficiency.
This view is reflected in what was identified by respondents as the top challenge that independent practices faced for 2021 – the need to integrate technology solutions. More than 38% of respondents cited this as the top challenge, higher than in 2019 by more than 5 percentage points, but also significantly higher than “bread and butter” issues such as declining reimbursements or an increasing need for patient payments.
At the same time, in terms of patient engagement, the survey found that every topic regarding patient interactions increased in 2021 over 2019. Kareo identified 11 aspects to the patient relationship, which ranged from efficient two-way communication and scheduling patient appointments to patient retention and improving care plan adherence. All of them showed higher ratings in the 2021 survey and can be improved with the effective use of technology. Responding to a series of questions asked for the first time in the 2021 survey, participants said they believe the main components to a positive patient-provider relationship were patient trust, a shared understanding of health-related goals, and seamless patient access to care.
In the patient encounter, 61 percent of survey participants said that they view the patient as a consumer of their services. They recognize that their role is supporting the patient in treatment decisions, especially when the treatment requires the patient to sustain action over time. For example, 62% agreed with the statement that the key to quality care is providing the patient with the information and evidence needed for them to make the best choice.
These results provide new insights into today’s patient-provider relationship. Of course, the provider approaches each patient visit with the expertise and experience to properly diagnose and provide the information treatment options.
Beyond the patient’s interaction with their provider, responsibility for adherence to the treatment plan rests with the patient who must choose to actively follow the “doctor’s orders” to receive the best outcome. Yet, adherence is driven by more than patient willpower. The probability of adherence is partly determined by the decision-making process employed in the patient-provider encounter and partly by the combined effect of the patient’s social context and agency.
The patient-provider interaction is evolving, with patients taking greater responsibility for managing their health proactively and providers recognizing the need for greater patient empathy. Survey participants shared what they believe would make a difference to improve treatment adherence.
The Kareo 2021 State of the Independent Practice Report has several surprising statistics related to the current state of the independent practice. The full report is available for download. To see how Kareo helps practices with their patient engagement initiatives, visit us here.